SMWS 51.13 Fifty Shades of Lemon

Each day seems to begin with the immortal words today on MALT to followers on Instagram. Another day without Jason covering an Irish whiskey, as our Phil is all too quick to point out. Well Phil, today is your lucky day.

I understand this section has little to do with whisky but we’ll get there eventually. A dram can unlock forgotten memories and transport you back in time or to a specific setting. This is what today’s whiskey achieves.

My father is Irish and during my childhood, we visited Ireland on a regular basis during the troubles. As a kid, there was an unsettling feeling about having to keep your mouth shut to hide your accent and origins. Avoiding conversations about most things, being seen and not heard. Even visiting the shops was an ordeal with checkpoints, searches and existing under an air of suspicion. And when you reached the shops, many major chains had long since fled Ireland.

My parents tried to make our trips to Ireland fun and inspiring. For the most part, they were successful until you were pulled over by soldiers wielding guns and asking questions in a forceful manner. These are the memories that stick with you alongside seeing relatives, the wonderful scenery and hospitality of the region. Even in these dark and difficult times, there was a great deal to cherish and embrace.

The local family distillery, and therefore tipple of choice, was always Bushmills. The first distillery that I ever visited; possibly to replenish household stocks? It’s funny when I was back in Ireland a couple of years ago. We ventured to the distillery that prompted a chance meeting with Torvill and Dean along with the Dancing on Ice judges; bizarre I know! However, the place in my mind hadn’t changed and there’s something to be said for that in this disposable age. A whiskey time capsule and a producer that the local community is very proud of. After all, Bushmills has been around longer than any of us care to remember and will outlast us all.

Whenever I sit down with a Bushmills, these memories are revived alongside family gatherings, where the local produce went down all too easy. Maybe that’s why I tend to stick to Scotch? Who knows? The limited range from Bushmills nowadays doesn’t help matters nor the sense that it can do better. A recent free Saturday, allowed me the rare opportunity to head into Edinburgh and check out a handful of SMWS new releases including this Bushmills.

I’m still a little dumbfounded that Diageo let this iconic distillery go, in what was effectively a swap deal for the Jose Cuervo brand line. I wonder if Diageo is now looking back on this agreement with a sense of remorse? Irish whiskey is booming and they just let a crown jewel go without too much of a fight.

Like buses, the March outturn heralded the appearance of 2 SMWS 51’s within it’s lineup. The other being dubbed a Hazelnut Chocolate Dundee Cake to offer a colourful contrast. Today, we’re all about the lemons. Distilled on 16th January 2001 before being bottled at 17 years of age. A 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel provided an outturn of 175 bottles at 54.7%. A bottle of this will set you back £120 and at the time of writing it’s still available.

SMWS 51.13 Fifty Shades of Lemon – review

Colour: Lemon peel.

On the nose: Light, buttery and approachable. A pleasing floral aspect with a hint of rose. White chocolate, a fresh vanilla, almonds and freshly baked meringues. Towards the end, we have green peppercorns and a block of worn varnished pine wood. The lemon vibe is gentle and mixed with the subdued fruits.

In the mouth: Zingy! Memories of sherbet and lemon fizz baws, or balls if you prefer. Fresh and not as complex as the nose but I’m interested. It lacks the mouthfeel and the barman suggested it was double distilled. More vanilla, shortbread with a gentle grapefruit and green apples midway. The finish is coconut flakes.


It’s refreshing to sit down with an Irish whiskey that is presented so candidly. No nonsense about family ties, some mythical distillery that doesn’t exist or a fake brand wrapped up in marketing baloney. If only all whiskies were so confident to give us a decent level of clarity and information. A little bit of confidence in your product goes a long way.

I enjoyed this Bushmills. There’s just enough interest and the pull of memories as I cast back my thoughts to earlier times and lost relatives. Time is relentless, which is why we should enjoy what time we do have and the whiskies that we decide to open, explore and share.

Score: 6/10

This sample was purchased at the SMWS Queen Street branch. The bottle link is for your convenience there is no commission.

  1. Avatar
    WhiskyRick says:

    I tried both of these and opted for the other bottle. Both were very interesting drams if I’m honest. I chose 51.16 simply because it had a little bit less of a peppery finish. I’d have grabbed both if I could afford them. The barman also mentioned to me that these were both double distilled. My only experience with bushmills has been the standard release and found it to be entirely uninteresting. Both of these offer so much more. Gonna crack my bottle open on St. Patrick’s day and share it with friends.

  2. Jason
    Jason says:

    Thanks for dropping by. Yep, I’ve heard the double distilled chat as well. Glad you enjoyed both and maybe I’ll get around to the other in due course. Back in the Vaults later this week so will see what’s on offer. An enjoyable dram.

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